Rare Promotional Map of Lands In Fresno County, Published by "The Raisin King of Fresno."
Finely executed promotional map of the area around the City of Fresno, California, published by Martin Theodore Kearney and printed in San Francisco by Britton & Rey.
This map promotes the earliest real estate ventures of M. Theo Kearney, who would come to be known as The Raisin King of Fresno and the founder of California Raisin Growers Association. As noted below, Kearney left a lasting legacy on Fresno and the San Joaquin Valley.
The map identifies the lands of a number of the earliest Raisin and other Agricultural Colonies in the Fresno environs, south of the San Joaquin River. The map also shows the beginning of the development of the Canal System in this part of Fresno County, which would transform this part of the San Joaquin Valley into a farming mecca. The various tracts of Colonies are colored red, noting 17 colonies; 11 vineyards; 2 orchards. Kearney owns a large tract and is the proprietor of The Easterby Rancho Colony and the Richland Tract.
Verso is filled with text extolling lands in Fresno County. There is an inset "Map of California Map of Summer & Winter Resorts and other places upon and near The Central & Southern Pacific Railroads in California.
The map is also a marvelous cadastral map, identifying the land owners of every parcel of land on the map. In addition to the established colonies, the larger land owners on the map include:
- E.B. Perrin (EBP)
- J.F. Houghton
- M. Theo. Kearny
- Bank of California
- Thomas E. Hughes
- W.S. Chapman
- M.J. Church
- G.G. Briggs
- C.K. Kirby
A proposed Narrow Gage Railway to Fresno is shown, along with the existing line of the Southern Pacific Railway.
Of note, the map shows the first of several of the Colonies (Belfast Colony) created by Dr. Edward B. Perrin. After service in the Civil War, Perrin moved to California, where he began purchasing land throughout California and Arizona, speculating on the routes of the various railroads, and purchasing land from Redding to Los Angeles in large quantities. He also undertook the construction of a number of irrigation canals in the Fresno area. In all, he amassed over 500,000 acres of land in Fresno County and developed 5 different Perrin Colonies, the first of which was developed in the late 1880s. As noted by Virginia Thickens in Pioneer Agricultural Colonies of Fresno County, California Historical Society Quarterly, Vol. 25, No. 2 (Jun., 1946), pp. 169-177:
Dr. E. B. Perrin first speculated in Fresno lands in 1868 . . . he acquired more than 130,000 acres, and to provide them with water, he organized the Upper San Joaquin Canal Company in 1876. This enterprise failed because, to use his own words, "they struck financial difficulties and hard rock." Not until he bought the Fresno Canal and Irrigation Company from Church in 1887 did his success fully irrigate his land. The establishment of the Perrin Colonies around Fresno dated from that time. The first colony of 7040 acres lay west of the American Colony; the others, five in number, were north and northwest of the city . . .
M. Theodore Kearney & The Colony Farming System
M. Theo. Kearney was born Martin Thomas Carney on February 5, 1842, on Banastre Street near the docks of Liverpool, England. Kearney's family immigrated from Liverpool to Malden, a small community north of Boston around 1854. Kearney's own diary notes do not begin until 1865, and by that time he had assumed the name Martin Theodore Kearney.
At age 18, Kearney moved to Boston and found work as a clerk for a trunk-manufacturing company, rising to the position of partner in the firm. In February of 1869, Kearney arrived in San Francisco via the overland route across the Isthmus of Panama -- only two months before the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad. At the time vast tracts of land in the central San Joaquin Valley were being acquired by syndicates of investors. Kearney was hired by Bernard Marks and William Chapman to help develop the first colony farm in Fresno County.
The colony farm system was a method of land development that organized arable land into settlements of twenty-acre farms that included tree-lined roads, access to irrigation, and eventually schools. As the manager and chief promoter of the Central California Colony, Kearney had 192 lots to sell on six square miles of land southwest of Fresno. Each lot sold for $1,000 with purchase terms of $150 cash, $12.50 per month, interest free, until the debt was paid. To promote the land sales, Kearney provided a steady stream of promotional information and human-interest stories to the local newspapers. His public relations experience and business acumen stimulated rapid sales, and by the end of 1878 most of the colony's lots were under cultivation.
Kearney next bought 6,800 acres of land to the east and southeast of Fresno on which to establish his Fruit Vale Estate and began the cultivation of the raisin grape which eventually became the source of most his wealth. Kearney also planned for the development of his ranch town, park and palatial residence. Work proceeded on the estate's vineyards, grounds, boulevard, and ranch town through the 1890s. And, notwithstanding the national financial Panic of 1893, Kearney solidified his position of leadership in California's raisin industry.
Kearney proposed the formation of the California Raisin Growers Association at a Fresno meeting of industry leaders in June of 1898. The purpose of this cooperative was to stabilize the raisin market through means of quality control, price setting, and shrewd marketing of California's raisins. With Kearney as their first president, a membership drive attracted 90 per cent of the state's raisin growers that year.
Hailed as the "Raisin King of Fresno," Kearney was seen as the industry's savior. However, the next eight years were stormy ones for the Association with intense conflicts and personality battles that weakened the effectiveness of Kearney's concept of a strong raisin packing-marketing corporation. In the end, the original cooperative fell by the way only to reappear in 1912, after Kearney's death, as the California Associated Raisin Company which eventually became the Sun-Maid Company and, ultimately, the present-day corporate giant of Sun-Maid Growers of California.
At the center of Kearney's Fruit Vale Estate, seven miles west of Fresno Street, was the 240-acre Chateau Fresno Park now known as Kearney Park. The park was central to Kearney's plans for the use of his estate after his death as an agricultural "adjunct" to the University of California. Kearney built the Superintendent's Lodge, now Kearney Mansion, and lived in the structure while he planned a much larger personal residence, the Chateau Fresno. He died before construction of Chateau Fresno commenced. At the time of his death, May 27, 1906, he was aboard the Cunard steamer Caronia, bound for Queenstown, England.
Kearney left his entire estate to the University of California. The University maintained operations of the Kearney Vineyard Company until 1949. The present day Kearney Foundation for Soil Science is headquartered at the University of California at Davis and was founded with funds acquired during the sale of Kearney's land holdings. The County of Fresno leases 180 acres of land that makes up the current day Kearney Park. The Fresno City & County Historical Society administers Kearney's Superintendent's Lodge, as Kearney Mansion Museum.
OCLC Locates 4 map examples (Bancroft, Fresno State University, UC Davis and Yale). Kearney issued a different uncolored promotional map in 1884, with a similar title, in the collection of the Huntington Library and Bancroft Library.
This is the second example we have offered. The prior example was from the Warren Heckrotte collection.